10 Tips For First-Time Travelers

Over at Jaunted.com, they’ve been following the journey of the Newbie Traveler, a young man making his first trip abroad. Now that the noob has successfully crossed borders without causing an international incident, he’s compiled this list of 10 bits of advice he has for other people making their first trek abroad.

1. Get a passport: Kind of a gimme, right? But the Newbie Traveler polled his friends and found that 80% of them didn’t have a valid passport. And really, the trip won’t happen if you can’t get on the plane.

2. Not all power adapters are created equal: If you’re traveling to both the UK and mainland Europe, you’ll find you need two — or a truly universal — power adapter to make sure you can plug in everywhere.

3. Make the necessary phone calls before your trip: Some phone calls you’ll definitely want to make before departing, include your bank, cell phone, health insurance.

4. Meet a local: If you don’t know someone in at your destination, sites like CouchSurfing.org can hook you up with people who would love to show you around their town. Says, the noob, “I did a quick search for people in the London area and over 1,000 results came back.”

5. Don’t be ashamed to use a map: Don’t care about whether or not people think you’re a tourist. Getting lost can be a lot worse than getting laughed at.

6. Never forget you’re in another country: “Be open minded and ready for new experiences while showing respect for your host country,” says the Newbie Traveler, who suggests the World Customs & Cultures app for iPhone users.

7. Fight jet lag: Don’t waste your time sleeping during the day in your hotel room. Try to sleep on the flight and do your best to adjust ASAP to your new time zone.

8. Use public transportation: “If the locals can figure it out, you can too.”

9. Be in the moment: “Don’t keep your head buried in guidebooks,” says the NT. “You’re traveling to participate, for the opportunity to experience other cultures and ways of life. You want to look back on your journey and remember that you really existed there–if only just for a moment.”

10. Oh, and bring comfortable shoes: Sometimes you’ll have to sacrifice fashion for comfort, especially if you plan on hours of walking each day.

What other tips have you all learned from your travels?

The Newbie Traveler’s Top Ten Tips for Other First-Time Travelers [Jaunted]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Sepp_TB says:

    I misread this article title as “10 Tips for First Time-Travelers”. Needless to say, despite how good these tips seem, I can’t help but feel disappointed.

    • keen314 says:

      I’m so happy I’m not the only one. Hey Consumerist, can we get a follow up article on tips for First Time Time-Travelers?

      • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

        Dunno about forward, but those going backwards would do well to post this on the inside of their time machine.

    • TBGBoodler says:

      Ha! I love it.

    • pop top says:

      I’m glad I wasn’t the only one.

    • loganberries says:

      For you, and everyone else.

      1. Remember, you cannot change your own past! You have arrived in an alternate quantum reality, where you arrived at that point in time. It was identical to your own, prior to your arrival. This is not to say that you created an entire universe. It already happened, you’re just arriving there, now.

      2. As you will be changing things from the very moment you arrive (Edward Norton Lorenz’s famous Butterfly Effect), it is important to note that if you have additional stops forward within this quantum reality, you should expect potentially serious changes. (Don’t kill Adolph Hitler early and expect the 50’s in America to be nearly so charming)

      3. While the temptation to lord over some primitive civilization from our past with your superior technology will be great, it is important to tread lightly. Treat them the way you would choose to be treated, were a visitor from the distant future to happen upon you. Remember, your quantum reality almost certainly has Quantum Contamination, already. Wouldn’t you rather someone keep their foot-print minimal in your time-line?

      4. Of course, if you ARE going to go the route of time-hopping despot, do it right. Do your homework! You have the internet. Wikipedia will provide you much of what you need in the way of understanding. (citation needed)

      5. Let’s cut you off right here; yes, we already know who assassinated (Famous historical figure here). Your personal take on the situation relies on your context, and your blow-by-blow time-blogs about JFK will only cause us to block you. Put it to bed. You’re not a historian, you’re just a tourist. So, have fun, take pictures, just don’t expect us to attend the slide-show. (If I have to watch aliens build the Great Pyramid even ONE more time, I will kill myself.)

      6. Yes, as a matter of fact, trying to “become your own grandpa” IS impossible. It is also a time crime. (don’t bother pointing out the incongruities within time crime legislation. we’ve read the articles, too. They finally legalized marijuana. Be grateful and be quiet.)

      7. Pillaging the resources of this alternate past is a time-crime, but any resources you bring back to your time are tax deductible.

      8. Making out with your alternate time-line self is NOT a time-crime, but it will make you go blind.

      9. Don’t bother with the beginning or end of time. The traffic is murder and the Big Bang is a misnomer.

      10. Seriously. No time-blogging.

    • Liarbyrd says:

      Glad I’m not the only one.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:
    • Capta76 says:

      Yep, same boat.. then I saw the first tip and re-read the headline.

      Still useful, although I’d still like to read the article I thought I saw

  2. Traveshamockery says:

    I initially read this headline as “10 Tips for First-Time Time Travelers”.

    Too much io9 today, I guess.

  3. Harry_Greek says:

    4. Meet a local: ,… to possibly kidnap you and harvest your body for the black market human organ scene.

    • Chris Morran says:

      I kinda thought that went without saying, so i didn’t include.

    • Traveshamockery says:

      Yeah, after watching the “Locked Up Abroad” episode where that hippie got kidnapped by the guy who helped finance 9/11, I will never look at a foreigner again.

    • DariusC says:

      #4 is a bad idea…. What safeguards are on that site? That could be 1,000 kidnappers, thugs, etc looking to “show you around”… yeah.. show you around a dark alley…

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I would hope the site would screen people. Probably not.

  4. Primarylupine says:

    #11 – Learn Canadian History. Yes, with the election of Barack Obama to office, the world’s view of the United States has warmed a bit, but you still may encounter people that still harbour hostile feelings over the “Dubya” years. Buy a Tim Horton’s travel mug, and perhaps a Maple Leafs hat or jersey. (Note: Red Wings gear is also acceptable since Michigan is practically Canada’s 11th province.)

    For bonus points, learn to whistle/hum the theme tunes to “Hockey Night in Canada” or “Mr. Dressup”.

    Oh, and put a pic of Don Cherry in your wallet, *before* a picture of your kids.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      Or don’t dress like a douchey American in the first place.

      Hint: In Europe, the only places where people wear ski jackets are ski slopes.
      Hint: Unless you are actively playing baseball, leave the hat at home.
      Hint: No one outside the United States (with the possible exception of Japan) wears clothing covered with slogans, brand names, logos or obnoxious sayings 24 hours a day. Tone it down, and you’ll fit in.

      • jvanbrecht says:

        I disagree on the slogans/brands statement.. I like my surfing gear.. and random brands associated with them.. I am technical a PAC Sun walking advertisement.. heh.

        However, being that I am from South Africa, which is not Japan or the US, I can say with absolute certainty that plenty of people (and to the countries I have visited, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Greece, Jamaica and for a short 10 hours, London) wear similar items….

        • pantheonoutcast says:

          Alright, I did kind of paint that with a broad brush. But I think it’s fair to say that if you spend an equal amount of time in Central Park and say, Englischer Garten in Munich, you’re going to see more logos in the former than the latter.

          • mystery79 says:

            I disagree with pretending to be Canadian if you’re not. How can you fight the “rude American” stereotype if you don’t show the locals that most of us aren’t like that?

            We spent 2 weeks traveling all over Germany and a day in Belgium when Bush was president. We were a little concerned at how our reaction would be but honestly almost everyone was very friendly. Maybe it’s because we tried to use German first but most of them knew a decent amount of English and we didn’t have many communication issues. Germans at least 6 years ago were a very friendly bunch and the ones that asked us where we were from didn’t mention politics.

            On the other hand, a friend of ours who went to Paris said people were always correcting his attempts at speaking French – would respond to him in English after he struggled through trying to say something in French – in general people were much more rude. I don’t think this was because they were American, it seems like they treat most non French people that way. Again though they said it wasn’t that bad and they really enjoyed France and did meet some friendly people.

            In other words, stop expecting the locals to be rude and have it ruin your trip if you admit you’re from the USA (honestly how can a person w/ a thick Southern accent say they are Candian anyway?) . If you look for examples and only remember when people are rude it’s going to make you think everyone was doing it because you were American. Maybe they were rude to you because you didn’t speak their language or just didn’t want to be bothered by tourists, no matter where they were from.

            • SenorBob says:

              “Honestly how can a person w/ a thick Southern accent say they are Candian anyway”

              Easily. To a non-English speaker we all sound alike. If someone’s speaking French, can you tell if he’s French or Belgian? Can you tell if a Spanish speaker is Mexican or Guatemalan?

              • qualia says:

                I speak French (better than I read it, anyway), and YES, you can tell if someone has an accent if you can even hold a little conversation. A new accent can make everything hilariously incomprehensible for a couple horrible minutes.

                Also, Europeans both speak English AND have had enough access to American media that they can usually recognize if you have a regional accent.

      • ARP says:

        Disagree on the slogans. Actually, I see it a lot. They wear shirts with random english words and phrases (that often don’t even make sense). Especially true where English is spoken less (e.g. Turkey).

        Now, I will back you up that you should not wear Amercian brands (Abercrombie, Eddie Bauer, etc.). Also, you may love the Packers (not sure why), but don’t wear any American sports team apparel.

        While travel clothing is great when you’re on Safari, it doesn’t work so well in cities. You don’t need zip off pants to shorts in Rome, or your Nylon travel shirt in Paris.

      • SenorBob says:

        If you’re in Europe, leave the shorts at home. Seriously.

    • James says:

      I’ve never met anyone that did this, and think it’s ridiculous.

      I traveled overseas twice a year from ’05 to present and gave my honest opinion of my government during the Bush years.

      People aren’t stupid and understand the difference between the government and its citizens, and know/knew there was a large population of dissenters especially when W’s two elections were practically 50/50.

      They appreciated it, I appreciate others political opinions and cultures, and no one has to hide who they are.

      • balthisar says:

        Agreed. I’ve only met respectful, normal people on any trip to Europe or Latin America. I’ve been treat just like we’d treat a tourist here. Even a Soviet tourist. Well, that’s outdated… even an Iranian tourist.

        It’s a sad myth to think that USA = George Bush in foreigners’ eyes, or even to think that as much vitriol exists against GW as the intertubes would make you think.

    • jenolen2161 says:

      Yeah, I’m not sure about this either. My fiance and I just went to Montreal, and had a fantastic time. The locals were very nice, and we didn’t encounter anyone rude (and we’re from NYC, so we’re used to it). We also made sure to smile a lot, acknowledging that we were tourists and were happy to be in a foreign country.

    • pop top says:

      I thought Canada was OUR province.

      Go Wings.

    • probablykate says:

      I have to back you up a bit here. When I was traveling abroad during the last presidency, I can’t say I had any outright hostility, but I got a lot of comments like “you’re president wasn’t even really elected into office.” It got old after a while, and I met a lot of fellow americans pretending to be canadian.

    • cakeinoz says:

      Yes, please do this, if you’d like to look like a complete fool when the truth eventually comes out. I have friends over here who still laugh at the Americans they’ve met in their travels who pretended to be Canadian. It’s an asinine thing to do just to avoid a little bit of criticism about your government.

      And yes, I’ve lived overseas for over 8 years now, through every stupid bit of the Bush years. I’ve lived in Germany, where people will not hesitate to tell you what they think, as well as Holland (same) and Britain (slightly more reserved, naturally.) None of the VERY few negative comments I’ve experienced have scarred me for life. Indeed, some of these people eventually told me they were happy to have met an American who could engage them intelligently on the topic of our politics.

      My biggest piece of advice would be: don’t wear shorts. Very, very few people here do. The “don’t wear sneakers” thing is very old advice- they’ve been popular here for quite some time now.

  5. Rachacha says:

    11. Remember to go to the bathroom, eat all your vegetables, wear clean underwear and look both ways before crossing the street while traveling abroad.

    This really was a traveling noob

    My best tip for traveling abroad is to visit http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html to review the varios laws and entry requirements and to see if there is any unrest in the country or areas you should avoid. I also check out several websites to determine what is customary tipping/gratuity procedure for the countries I will be visiting.

  6. 44 in a Row says:

    I’d add 1(a): check whether you need a visa, and if so, get it. Most places you’ll go to as an American citizen won’t require an advance visa, but there are a few that do (China and Vietnam, for example), and you’re not getting out of the airport without it in those countries.

    • Fantoche_de_Chaussette says:

      Indeed, you won’t even get on the plane: airlines are fined very heavily (e.g. tens of thousands of dollars) if they transport someone into a country without the necessary papers. So, I find that the airline check-in agents are often more anal about checking passports/visas than the actual immigration agents

      There are rare but entertaining stories of passengers being denied boarding for not having visas for countries where the passengers knew that they didn’t need visas, but the airline thought they did.

    • jamar0303 says:

      For China: If you want a quick look at the country on your way to a third destination nearby Shanghai airport can clear you for a 48-hour transit visa on arrival. This looks more believable if your third destination requires changing airports (for example- Detroit->Shanghai-Pudong changing to Shanghai-Hongqiao->Hong Kong) so buy your tickets like that (though note that your possibilities are rather limited like this- the only int’l destinations that Hongqiao serves are Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei, and starting later, Hong Kong; for the first two it looks strange to backtrack if coming from the US and you’ll get extra scrutiny and possibly denied for your transit).

  7. UssaRars says:

    A pad of paper and something to write with! If you don’t feel like spending a ton of time writing about your amazing travels, it’s nice to have it to write down the name of that dish you tried, or any street lingo you pick up ; )

  8. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Be adventurous in what you eat, but know your limitations. If you go to India and you know you don’t like Indian food, stay the hell out of the Indian restaurants – no one likes a guy who complains about everything.

    If you meet a local, or are meeting up with local friends, don’t insult them and their culture by complaining. The last thing you want is to be ditched in the street because you’ve rattled on for 30 minutes about how the food sucks.

  9. Thyme for an edit button says:

    Be discreet about using maps though, not because of “shame” but because you could mark yourself as a target for criminals.

  10. Megladon says:

    #3, even if you call your credit card in advance, tell them exactly where your going, say a cruise to the bahamas, they may still suspect your card of fraud, refuse to pay the innital 900$ blacked out by the cruise ship, refuse to give you bigger limmit on your other card with them, and STILL claim to be the “no hassle card” when they tell you to bend over there is nothing you can do to pay the bill on your ship, while you still have 2 more days at sea, good luck figuring out how to not spend any money and still have fun.

    • probablykate says:

      I went to Colombia earlier this year, and when I called Amex to notify them ahead of time (I’d never done it before, but I figured especially a country like Colombia might raise suspicion) they said that they do not notate accounts for travel anymore and they would just suspend my card if they suspected fraud. That was very comforting.

    • Jevia says:

      Yeah, its probably best to have two different cards with two different banks, but both should be Visa/Mastercard. I’ve just returned from a trip and found that very few places take American Express or Discover and my one Visa card filled up quite fast.

  11. abhiroopb says:

    I am really not a fan of rule 9. I see it come up in various places (including travel guides!) and it just seems a little pretentious.

    I’ve travelled a lot and in some places have thoroughly enjoyed a “scripted” tour. In other places we winged it and it was equally enjoyable.

    However, I rarely go somewhere to “soak up the culture”. That can be nice but the main thing I want to do is SEE things.

    • Megladon says:

      when i’m in an area i’m not fimiliar with i go and find postcards and tell cab drivers or whatever to take me there. You get to see alot of interesting places you might not have otherwise found.

  12. Thyme for an edit button says:

    Another tip: Tear the pages out of your travel guide that you will need for the day.

    That way you don’t have to lug around your complete guide each day and have just the pages you need.

  13. James says:

    some random ones I’ve come up with over the years.

    Confirm your flights, hotels/hostels, activities, etc before leaving. If you’re staying at a guest house or apartment i.e. somewhere other than a big corp. hotel, have a backup place (with availability) in mind. If your first place is a complete dump or misrepresented you can just taxi it over to your backup, rather than being in a strange city with no place to stay. Fortunately I’ve never had to do this.

    Use bank ATMs upon arrival. Easier and the ATM fees are cheaper than converting dollars to whatever.

    Keep a copy of passport in travel bag, and your CC phone numbers. Keep part of your money separate. If you go out keep a card or two back at the hotel. Get a pin number and know your CC cash advance limit. If you lose ATM/Debit card or your bank starts putting fraud holds on your account (as read here many times) you can get cash with your credit card and not lose time on your trip.

    Forget hotels. Stay in a guest house or nice hostel if you want to be social, or rent an apartment if you need to be alone. A place with a kitchen saves money by not having to constantly eat out, and you can visit local markets and do regular things like locals do.

    Don’t overpack. They sell 3oz packs of laundry detergent with the travel size shampoos and things. You can wash socks/underwear in the sink and hang it up to dry. Most foreign big cities have laundry places where you can drop clothes off and pick up in evening or next day. I’ve done this in Europe and SA and it’s rarely more than $5. I actually prefer doing it before I leave for home.

    If you have laptop, phone charge, shaver, camera charger etc – bring a power strip for your converter, which probably only has one AC outlet like mine.

    Everything’s cheaper in non-touristy areas. Prague is an excellent example of this. North of the river (where nobody goes) restaurants are half the price of the central area.

    Activies: In addition to guided walks, museums and touristy stuff look up regular things you’d do back home. Coffee shops, small theaters, art shows, clubs and DJs you like, sports groups- any type of “meetup” activity you like can be found in other cities, and many are condusive to visitors, which is a great way to meet a local (above #4)

  14. blinky says:

    Turn your phone’s data to “airplane mode” and keep it that way.

    • RStormgull says:

      Or, if you have a GSM cell phone, buy a local pay-as-you-go sim card and pop it in. No roaming, no redonkulous fees.

  15. djanes1 says:

    By all means, wear shoes you can walk in all day — but this still does not excuse the bad tradition of American tourists wearing white New Balance running shoes 24/7. There are lots of places in the world where getting around in daily life never involves a personal car, and in every single one of these places people wear normal-looking shoes. Save the running shoes for actual running.

    • Draw2much says:

      Oh, I’m sorry, I disagree! I’ve visited Scotland, Egypt, and Japan. In Japan I made the mistake of trying to wear nicer looking shoes. (I was trying not to look like a tourist. Hehe.) I thought they would be fine, as they were comfortable for day-to-day walking around. When I did my tourist bit in Tokyo, I discovered they were the worst possible shoes I could have picked. I was in severe, almost crippling, foot pain because of them.

      I vowed never to do that again. I’ll always take function over appearance. If I have to wear ugly sport shoes so I can see all the sites, I will! It’s a small price to pay to keep me walking.

      Fyi, normal every day walking is not the same as tourist walking. Tourist do substantially more walking!

    • Pax says:

      Some of us only OWN one set of footwear. And we Americans don’t generally consider sneakers to be specifically “running shoes” – they’re often just another style of shoe.

      Plus, they come in many more colors than just white, nowadays.

  16. pantheonoutcast says:

    Learn the tipping customs in your host country.

    Don’t eat in a American chain restaurant for any reason. Part of your travel experience is immersion. But feel free to use the bathrooms there.

    Never begin a sentence with, “Well, In America, we…”

    When you encounter locals at a bar or other gathering place, never bring politics into the discussion. You most likely have no idea how their country works, much the same way they don’t know about yours. Play it safe – get into conversations about locally brewed beer or something else that shows you have an interest in their culture.

    Don’t pack toiletries. Even in the most backwards, 3rd world nation you can buy toothpaste and deodorant.

    Split the difference between an extravagant hotel and a hostel made for unwashed, backpacking students. You don’t need extra amenities – Hotels are for sleeping, not throwing a cocktail party. At the same time, you don’t want to have to padlock yourself to the bed every night in fear.

    Never go anywhere without your passport. Never. And make sure you keep it secured and out of sight. Also, carry more than one credit card.

    Ask when you don’t know something. I’ve been to 30 different countries – no one has ever mocked me for asking them a question.

    For the love of all things holy, stay out of the cabs – they will rip you off something fierce.

    Put the camera down for five minutes. You want a great picture of the Eiffel Tower? Buy a postcard. It will look better than whatever you can do, anyway. If you want to take pictures, take them of the people you meet, not the buildings you’ve stood in front of.

    Immodium AD. Buy it, use it, love it.

    • Draw2much says:

      The real problem comes in when you can’t read anything on the menu. While I was in Japan a lot of places had pictures or fake dish set ups so you had some idea what was there. But some places didn’t. And we weren’t sure what they were selling and we didn’t want to walk in not knowing how to order properly. :-/
      Well, you can buy tooth paste and tooth brushes, but when it comes to deodorant and shampoo, I’m bringing my own. Maybe it’s a girl thing, but there are specific brands I buy because they work and others don’t. Unless I know that the place I’m going has those specific brands I’m not risking it.
      Yes, ALWAYS keep your passport with you! That’s one of those things that you don’t ever want to leave behind.
      Maybe it depends on the places you’re visiting about the picture thing? I wish we’d taken more pictures of Scotland and Egypt. I took plenty in Japan though. But we visited a lot of temples and palaces and stuff. Things that were totally worth taking photos of, instead of just buying postcards. They were beautiful, especially the interiors.

    • GinaLouise says:

      I disagree on the toiletries. I really advise women to bring their specific brand of tampons with them. Rural / super conservative areas won’t have tampons, and even big cities might not have the kind you like.

      And if you’re in a rural area, buying any kind of pads/tampons can be embarrassing. At a small-town Mexican general store, the shopkeep insisted on wrapping my shameful package of (big, bulky, uncomfortable) pads in newspaper before bagging them. I felt like I was buying some particularly interesting/nasty porn magazine that needed to be shielded from innocent eyes.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        You’re 100% right – I let my male bias dictate those hints :)

        I’ll amend to: Save room in your luggage for tampons by not packing toothpaste.

    • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

      I’d disagree with you a bit with the cabs. While learning to use public transit is least costly and most immersive, it would probably be a bit overwhelming if you are unfamiliar with the language to ensure you get on the right bus or train and get off at the right stop, etc.

      Best to try to befriend a cab driver, and offer about 4-5x the average cab fare from your guidebook per day for him to take you where you want to go and be your guide. Sure, there’s some luck of the draw, but if your cabbie’s a stinker, you can probably find another easily. If he’s competent and honest, you’ve just taken care of #4 on the list and have a personal chauffeur to boot!

      Definitely avoid the tuk-tuks in Southeast Asia though.

      • Sparkstalker says:

        One thing we found useful in Manila…the hotel had a car service that we utilized. A little more than a cab, but the driver was a great guy and was more than willing to take us to different, out of the way places…

  17. colorisnteverything says:

    Don’t wear tennis shoes if you don’t want to look out of place. You can spot the Americans by the Nikes they wear. It’s pretty obvious. Also, refrain from talking LOUDLY. Americans are loud by nature and it can annoy some people. I lived in England for a year and traveled WIDELY in Europe and these are my main tips.

    You can spot a Brit by the fact that they often wear black, aren’t huge on labels/logos, and are often wearing impractical shoes. The women always have on fashionable footwear! Always!

    You can spot a German by the fact that when on vacation, they wear a lot of walking shoes! Hiking shoes or just leather shoes in general.

    Americans fit in well some places – I didn’t feel very out of place in Germany (of course my family is of German heritage and appreciates the traditions), but felt very out of place in both France and Italy. Both were fun, but I just never felt like I belonged.

  18. ahow628 says:

    To help get over jet lag, sleep on the plane (as mentioned) and also wait till bedtime to go to sleep in your new country. You might want to nap, but that is a bad idea. Wait till at least 8 or 9pm local time.

    • PunditGuy says:

      I was going to post this. Doesn’t matter if you have to stay awake for 30+ hours to do it — go to bed when it’s the right time to do so locally.

    • 44Wadeable says:

      And eat at least one meal on the time schedule of the new place before you get there. Eat breakfast at your new breakfast time, and start from there.

  19. Dustbunny says:

    Learn a few phrases of the language in the country you’re traveling to. Locals will appreciate you making the effort…well, unless you’re in France, then they’ll just get huffy & correct your grammar.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      One of the hundreds of reasons why I love Spain. My Spanish is bad by “American Latino” standards, because they all talk in a never-ending stream of syllables and use idioms and expressions that seem to have been made up on the spot.

      In Spain, however, I could understand, and be understood, and not one person ever snickered at my poor accent or mispronunciations.

    • cash_da_pibble says:

      I agree to this, even though I haven’t been out of the country.
      Some parts of San Jose feel like Mexico, though-
      and they really love when a white girl speaks Mexican spanish with a good accent. :)

    • IvansMom says:

      I spent a little time in Paris about 10 years ago and I found that the locals were really cool about my limited (school) French. Yes, they sometimes corrected me, but I was totally ok with that, since I was wrong, and they were nice about it. I had no problems with the people at all, but I will say that the stereotype about BO being common was true. I had a fantastic time and I am glad I had the chance to go.

  20. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    Bring comfortable shoes that are not sneakers (Trainers) because you won’t be let in anywhere fancy with trainers on.

  21. montusama says:

    This is more geared towards international traveling but where ever I go in the states, I plan on using public transportation and as for #9 “Be in the moment” A few months ago I went to Boston and literally just roamed, I probably missed so many tourist spots but felt I got to be in the city just by roaming and seeing random things.

    • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

      This. One of the reasons I really, really, REALLY love NYC. Roaming there is a real treat for me.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      That’s what I did when I went to London. I only took cabs twice, and that was to go to the theater because there was a suicide on the underground that stopped the trains, and to go home after because it was late. I did like riding in the black cabs, and the cabbies were very nice.

      The rest of the time I rode the underground or walked. London is very easy to get around in, especially if you buy an A-Z book at any newsstand.

  22. Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

    At least make a passing effort to speak the language in the place that you visit. Sure, you’ll leave dangling participles and screwed-up verb tenses, and you’ll get some funny looks and laughs. I’ve seen time and time again, however, that the locals will appreciate and respect you for the attempt. Hell, you might even score a “free” tour guide, discounts, and new and interesting friends in the bargain. And the furrin’ chicks dig the “helpless” ‘Murkin’ dude bit.

    And yes, I think this applies to folks visiting the States, too.

  23. Blueberry Scone says:

    I’m with the tips that suggest knowing your limits when it comes to the local cuisine. I am still mortified when I think of a traveling companion who complained loudly of the typical English breakfast that she was served because “it’s fried!” (This was almost ten years ago, btw.)

    I always use the bathroom whenever I have the chance. I know that sounds stupid, but you never know if the train get stuck when you really need to go.

  24. maxx22 says:

    Get one of those passport wallets that you wear under your shirt.

    Carry: Your passport; some NEW, CLEAN US currency in multiple denominations; spare pair of contact lenses (if you wear them); a copy of your eyeglass prescription (if you wear glasses); a list of your important email addresses. phone numbers, etc.; an ATT or similar prepaid phone card; the ATT (or similar) contact number for the countries you plan to visit; a list of any medications you take on a regular basis; ATM card; credit cards; extra camera card.

    Get a credit card that does not charge for foreign currency use (some charge as much as 3%).

    Carry a double amount of medications you take. Half goes in your carry-on; half goes in your in your belly-bag or purse. (I was once on a trip where someone put ALL his insulin in his suitcase which was lost!).

    Finally, follow my dad’s advice – take half as many clothes and twice as much money.

  25. Fantoche_de_Chaussette says:

    No matter where you’re staying, whether it’s a four-star hotel or cheap hostel, make sure you check your room for bedbugs.

  26. maxx22 says:

    A few more:-

    We put brightly colored straps around our suitcases. Makes them easier to identify on the luggage belt and less likely that someone will take the time to open them to take stuff. We also use cheap locks for the same reason but understand that they can be easiy cut or removed.

    Be aware of the climate where you are heading. If you are going from cold to hot and taking a car to the airport, you do not need a heavy coat that will burden you for the trip; a packable rain jacket will do fine. And remember sun tan stuff; and a hat; and sun glasses.

    There is a round clip that will hold a single water bottle and attach to your belt. Very useful.

  27. Span_Wolf says:

    First time time travelers, whatever you do, don’t touch anything!

  28. KhaiJB says:

    1: don’t kill Hitler. everyone tries it and we just have to stop you…

    oops.. read the title wrong…!

  29. kataisa says:

    6. Never forget you’re in another country: “Be open minded and ready for new experiences while showing respect for your host country,” says the Newbie Traveler, who suggests the World Customs & Cultures app for iPhone users.

    I wish the US guide books would tell European tourists this. There’s too many of these ignorant rude pigs crawling around my city.

  30. KyBash says:

    I think most of those rules apply on any vacation. It’s been more than twenty years since I was outside the states, but I always found Paris, Rome, and London were much easier on strangers than NYC or Chicago, and don’t get me started on the horrors of needing a script refill, credit card cancellations, and money to get home after being robbed in LA!

  31. abz_zeus says:

    As a Brit, can I say, if you’re going to drive in Europe, learn how to use a manual (stick shift), most rentals will be manual, and that means 5 or 6 gears.
    Also, Dollars aren’t accepted, if hey are you’ll get a lousy exchange rate.
    Be aware that Gas/Petrol is expensive here $7.5 per gallon (imperial) hence we have smaller cars!
    Also beer is stronger and there are not any if any light beers (Brewdog aren’t far from me and they have just produced a 55% one normal rang 5 -18%)
    Things are older here, like buildings, some date back to 1700’s 1500’s (rarer) and some to 900’s then there are those of BC i.e. 2000+ years old!
    A lot happens in a small space, cities are compact or the old parts are.

    I could go on, but the most important thing to remember is that we were fighting WWI & WWII before you arrived, we’re grateful for the help, but don’t try and continue to use it as an excuse for bad behaviour

  32. Pandrogas says:

    #11 Remember to bring your towel.

    • BigHeadEd says:


      I would add that you should also carry along some toilet paper. I was in the Delhi airport one time and was forced to cut off a corner of my towel.

  33. Michael R says:

    At least know how to say “Hello “, Please, Thank you. Then learn some more phrases.

    In many countries it is very rude to walk into a business without greeting the people working there.

    If you plan to walk, walk, walk on your trip, do some more walking at home. We keep forgetting this and have sore blistered feet to contend with. Only slows us a little though.

    Get some local currency before you leave. Landing with enough to get your first ground transport and meal is a great help. Airport money changers aren’t the best value. You’ll have enough on your mind to not want to make finding a money changer or ATM the first order of business.

    Expect to carry currency. A non-tourist oriented restaurant or store may not take plastic. Card use is not as universal as it is in the US.

    • Pax says:

      It seems to me that good phrases to learn would include “Do you speak ___”, and “I’m sorry but I do not speak ___”; using those could possibly get you put face to face with someone who at least speaks SOME of a language you know at least SOME of – even if you end up trading broken phrases in a third language with someones ten-year-old son or daughter, it’s better than both of you babbling at each other across an impenetrible language gulf!

  34. summeroflove says:

    When you first get your foreign currency, put it all someplace separate from your US currency. Even (and especially) your coins. I know when I’ve been lazy about this, it is always extremely annoying to have to pick through my change to find those ultra small coins.

    Also, nothing will work out as planned. Try to keep a smile. It will help your blood pressure and go a long way in other people deciding whether or not they want to help you.

  35. Sparkstalker says:

    1a. Make a photocopy of your passport, credit card, and other vital documents to leave with a friend who knows how to use a fax machine.

  36. legolex says:

    As Daniel Tosh said: Girls, if you go to Europe and meet a guy he’s going to kill you. I’ll stick to touring the good ‘ol US of A.

  37. quail says:

    Traveling in Europe? Do your research online and discover what the locals are wearing, which usually means to leave the jeans at home. Also, don’t go running around wearing sneakers. It will mark you as a tourist. Get some comfortable, dressy Sketcher shoes. (Pickpockets are plentiful in Europe and their favorite targets are tourists.)

    And don’t be afraid to leave things behind. You don’t have to pack all of your toiletries. Save some room and decide to buy a few things over there. Shopping in a foreign land is part of the adventure.

    How long will you travel in the foreign land? Consider getting a prepaid sim card for a used cell phone. You might even want to get a cell phone that will double as your camera. Get the phone overseas so that you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues with networks or power adapters. Or just get the cell phone with no plan so that you can take pictures and call emergency services in case of an emergency.

  38. mystery79 says:

    Honestly I wanted to follow the whole “sleep on the plane” thing when we flew to Germany but the sun was coming up right as I started getting tired (would have been 2 am EST, but it was 7 there). We tried to stay up but by 1 or 2 Germany time but we were snapping at each other and starting to nod off in public places. We checked in our hotel and slept for a couple hours and then explored the area a bit at night.

    I would probably suggest to people not to discount or shrug off the jet lag factor until you know how it’s going to affect you. Maybe it won’t be an issue for you, but planning for a couple of hours to rest/ relax and recharge might be a good idea.

  39. Lucy West says:

    I highly, highly recommend using couchsurfing.org. Before your trip, get in touch with one or two surfers and also write down the contact information for the couchsurfing ambassadors in the city you’ll be traveling to. If something goes amiss, (i.e, you’re stranded somewhere, you’ve lost your luggage, there’s a mishap with the hotel/hostel you’ve made reservations with etc.), ambassadors will be able to get you in contact with someone who can help you right away and if not, they’ll jump in and help. This is also a great resource for finding out what’s going on in the city on any given day. Its also an obvious choice for finding a place to stay but remember you’re participating in a community and not just jumping in on an opportunity for a free hotel. Definitely should be the first resource in particular for single travelers or for a small group traveling together.

    Also, don’t worry about looking like a tourist. Yes, you may become a target for thieves but if you’re smart about protecting your money and valuables, they won’t have the opportunity to take them from you. Also, if your shoes aren’t fancy enough for one restaurant, find another. You’ll probably have just as great an experience. I’ve found that looking like a tourist in the places I’ve visited has made me a target-one for locals or other travelers who are eager to join up at the bar/table and talk about shared experiences or even join up with you for a day or two. You won’t blend in no matter how hard you try and being a foreigner can be a great and humbling experience if you’re smart about it.

    • Lucy West says:

      Amending this to say that you *should* make sure you research safe dress codes (especially if you’re a woman) and if you’re going to a country that has a standard traditional dress, be sure you note whether you’ll be expected to dress that way as well. (Especially in India, but a lot of times you can have beautiful clothes ready-made very cheaply in shops there). But aside from being respectful in this way, still don’t expect to blend in most places.

  40. cakeinoz says:

    As an expat whose lived in Europe for 8 years now, I think the best piece of advice for those of you feeling self-conscious is: don’t kill yourself trying to dress like a local. I see so many people here saying “don’t wear sneakers” but really, that’s a bit silly. Great big white sneakers will look terribly American, but just about any other kind is going to look just fine. The idea that Europeans don’t wear sneakers is about 10 years out of date. It’s also different in every country: it’s more applicable in Italy, or France, than it is in say Holland, or Germany.

    And at the end of the day, as soon as you open your mouth? It’ll be obvious you aren’t from here. So just own it, and wear the footwear you find the most comfortable for doing a lot of walking.

    If I were to give any fashion advice, I’d actually say not to wear shorts if you’re male. I’m not saying no one wears them here, but it’s infrequent, and those who do look very American. :)

    and please for the love of bob, don’t pretend to be Canadian. I have (Irish and Scottish) friends here who still laugh at the Americans they met who tried to convince them they were Canadian. It’s useless, it just makes you look silly, and you are hardly avoiding any damning condemnation. People might make the odd comment, but overall, the ruse of pretending to be something you’re not has got to be more wearing than fielding a few little criticisms of your government.

  41. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Public transportation in Europe seems to be much better than here. I know someone from Germany who is visiting the US this summer. There are a lot of places she’s gone where public transport is poor to none, and she’s missed at least one attraction she was counting on seeing.

  42. BytheSea says:

    Eat local, not in your hotel. And eat somewhere different every day. Carry meal replacement bars and water. Wear running sneakers, not fashion sneakers, or you’ll ruin your vacation with feet you can’t walk on. Research and plan a few things you want to do, but be flexible to trying new things on the spot. Do the guided tours, at least a few of them, especially in places like castles or ruins that are just a bunch of rocks if you don’t have someone educated to interpret it for you. Take pictures, or buy the tourist postcard books in places where you’re not allowed to take pictures. Don’t change over too much cash into local money – most places will take your credit card or ATM, or possibly American dollars. Plan varied activities – museums, outdoor activities, nightlight — in each place. Talk to other travelers and the locals.

  43. seishino says:

    Always plan on getting mugged. Just hide a second stash of money and copies of your documents in your socks, etc.

    Taxi drivers will frequently take you for a ride. Take busses or trains if you can. If not engage the Taxi driver in conversation about the location, or follow along on a map. They already know you’re a tourist, they just need to know that you’re not a mark.

    While we’re on the subject, there are certain countries where you should never get into a taxi that wasn’t specifically called for you by a hotel.

    Pulling local money out of ATM’s is much cheaper than going to currency exchanges at airports.

    If you’re spending longer than a week somewhere, get a local SIM card for your phone. These are usually a tenth or less of the cost of international roaming. US carriers will usually unlock your phone if you’re in good standing and have had it for a year. Just check that your phone is a “quad-band,” to be sure it will work in the target country. Otherwise used unlocked GSM phones abroad can be had for $20 – $50.

    Ask the locals about what is fun or interesting to do. Don’t ask the taxi drivers or others who may have an arrangement to bring people to specific locations. Ask the local people who live there to find the interesting spots in town.

    Eat where the mass of locals eat. Not only is this usually better food, but the high turnover ensures that food doesn’t sit around long enough to spoil. The flip side of this, is always get at least a block away from any major monument before having lunch.

    Sometimes it is cheaper to buy tour packages in the country or at the location. Sometimes not. Research ahead of time to find out which is which.

    It’s a vacation. You’ll get taken for a ride, ripped off, waste lots of money, and otherwise unwillingly donate to the local people. Accept this ahead of time. When your $1 glass of orange juice shows up as $2, don’t it it ruin your time. Don’t let freaking out about a $20 surcharge to do something that should be free ruin your $1,000 experience.

  44. carbonero says:

    take a very small digital audio recorder. Its a great way to have a running diary, especially when you are too tired to write in a notebook after a long day. Also, the tone of your voice, the sounds of the streets, the rides on the noisy bus, the voices of your new friends, all are recorded for posterity. When you listen back there is so much more; it’s like you are there again. and in a few minutes you can say more than an hours’ worth of scribbling.

  45. Sarge says:

    How about the courtesy of learning a little bit about the locale you’re traveling to…..customs, courtesy, etc etc….

    Been overseas several times…..and the best thing I learned was NOT to be one of the “Ugly Americans” walking around…

    Learn “please” and “thank you” in whatever country’s native language you’re heading to….